NAPLES, Fla. — Alex Balan started kindergarten at Laurel Oak from home today, and he had a special visitor.
Collier County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Kamela Patton.
Together they said hello to his teacher and classmates. His sister Ella met her second grade class virtually at the other end of their dining room table. Their dad, Alex Balan Sr. said today’s class was smooth sailing compared to six months ago when schools closed abruptly due to the coronavirus outbreak.
“We were more responsible to be on top of them to make sure they do their work. But now, it’s just like their in a classroom except it’s virtual,” he said.
Alex Jr. and Ella’s mom Stephanie Balan says their schedules are synchronized with students learning in the classroom, down to recess and gym time.
“For PE, they can jump in the pool. They can swim. They can have fun. They can run around out here, and change clothes and get right back on the computer,” she said.
Alex Sr. says their older siblings are attending in-person classes at Gulf Coast High School.
“We just felt more comfortable with them following the guidelines as opposed to the little ones,” he said.
But, virtual learning didn’t come without a few bumps for some. Dr. Patton says the Century Link server was down over the weekend. Not only affecting Collier students, but all districts using it, leaving some middle and high school students offline.
“What we tell the parents is hang in there. And then email us at email@example.com. That’s the quickest way to let us know,” said Dr. Patten.
Mr. and Mrs. Balan say they enjoyed the first day of virtual learning, but things could change depending on COVID-19 numbers in Collier County.
“If the numbers continue to drop, I think we would feel comfortable sending the little ones back in the next quarter,” said Mr. Balan.
Collier students who were not able to get online today were not marked as absent. Assignments are also posted in advance, so students don’t have to fall behind if there’s another technology glitch.